Monday 29 October 2007

Honouring the Martyrs

After holding the 'Friends with Christ' Retreat last weekend with Fr Julian in Birmingham, where we focussed on Christ in some of the classical methods of prayer, and in which we were joined by about twenty five young people, I headed for Valladolid in Spain where I had trained for the priesthood.

My penny-each-way Ryanair flight to Valladolid was marvellous, landing me 20 minutes from the English College, its staff and the twenty pre-seminary students who are taking part in the formation year that the College now offers. (More on

I don't know of a house in this land where our martyrs would have been more honoured than in the English College Valladolid this year. The chapel was decorated to honour the six canonised, thirteen beatified and one venerable, martyrs of the College during the Penal days. Their relics and their images lay before the altar during all the liturgies. Before High Mass, the relics were venerated and carried in procession through the college in which they had trained, and from which they left to return to the Mission in England and Wales.
Mgr Kujac, the Rector, spoke beautifully about the lives and the deaths of these ordinary young men who gave their lives for the Faith in our land, willingly paying a terrible price that many others might have the fullness of Christ available to them. Their witness feeds the Church still. They show us what it is to be a Christian, they show us what it is to be a priest, and they light the way powerfully for the Church in England and Wales.

Their memory has not dimmed in the College since I was ordained, rather, they seem to be powerfully present in the conciences of the young men who are training for the priesthood today. These are the heroes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; not the great and the powerful, but these ordinary humble men who let the light of Christ shine in their age. With such great advocates, our enterprise too cannot fail.

Our Lady Vulnerata, the image of Our Lady which was defaced by English soldiers in Spain in 1586, enthroned in the College chapel still leads the College in its life and work. She will keep us on the main road.
St Henry Walpole
St Thomas Garnet
St John Roberts
St Ambrose Barlow
St John Plessington
St John lloyd
Bl Mark Barkworth
Bl Thomas Plasar
Bl William Richardson
Bl Roger Filcock
Bl Ralph Ashley
Bl Robert Drury
Bl Richard Reynolds
Bl Richard Cadwallader
Bl Thomas Holland
Bl Willaim Southerne
Bl Ralph Corby
Bl Thomas Bullacker
Bl Thomas Benstead
Bl Arthur Bell
Bl Edward Bamber
Bl Thomas Wittaker
Ven Edward Morgan Pray for us in the New Evangelisation

Sunday 28 October 2007

1967 remembered

The UK has just invested another £3 million in the project 'Global Safe Abortion'. We were the first country to legalise abortion and, since then we have confidently and systematically exported the culture of death accross the globe. The life of the world is at stake here.
We cannot, as a nation, claim to going anywhere at the moment, and with many parts of the world so fragile and unstable, we are not in a position to give real help either. Abortion is like a millstone dragging our societies and their cultures into a pit. When Abortion is illegal we will be able to make progress and to help other nations to develop. Reparation is a necessary and evangelising tool today.

Thursday 18 October 2007

The cost ...

... of Saul's conversion was the death of St Stephen the deacon. What will the conversion of the UK cost? Elizabeth I renounced the Faith not just for herself but for her whole Kingdom. The conversion of this country and its entire culture so that God's plan can be embraced is an undertaking that our forebears willingly gave their lives for.
Many of the priests, religious and lay people who died on the various Tyburns up and down the country, did so praying for Queen Elizabeth and the country. Their prayers uttered in such tremendous moments have not gone unheard, but have been the source of life for the Church in this island. Perhaps these prayers have also been a source of redemption for Elizabeth I. Centuries have gone past and the conversion of the UK is still a real question - it's openness to God is its greatest issue. The dedication of the martyrs to the Spiritual Life of this country is real inspiration for us in this age.
I will be in Valladolid next week so I wont be posting till the following, but there is to be a celebration for the Forty Martyrs at the English College (where I trained). I'll post on that when I get back.

Wednesday 17 October 2007

The will of man

Deciding what is good or bad - does God do this or does man? When it is not clear what God has decided then man must make the decision himself. Or so we are told.
The first to do this was Henry VIII. In seeking to know how to proceed with the matter of his divorce, since he considered that the Pope and the Church were unable to decide, he would decide himself. This was the start of the slippery slope which today's culture is whizzing down. His sinister daughter took this to the sixteenth century limit - she decided what the Church should be and she created one for her Kingdom. Since those times, we have seen huge steps forward in decision-making. At the end of the eighteenth century, the people of France decided what was good and what was bad. The next logical step for a people who have taken the decison over good and evil to themselves happened in 1967 - the decision over human life - Parliament ruled that it can be good to take the life of a viable foetus in the womb. The next logical step: every person can decide to impede the transmission of life - the contraceptive pill and the condom. And today, our culture is one in which even though we cannot recognise goodness, each individual must decide for him or herself what is good and what is evil. So much for the Tudors. These false witnesses led the UK into a self-serving cul-de-sac.

In fact, the will of God and the will of man can act together in grace, in friendship with Christ. What is not clear is our integrity and our knowledge of the truth. But the call, in grace and in love, is made to us. (cf B16's "God is Love) This is the primary 'light' which we are called to recognise. Grace and free will - this is the real story.

Monday 15 October 2007

Sixteenth Century chavscum

New exposure to the Tudor dynasty will be taking us by storm soon with the TV series "The Tudors" and the feature film "Elizabeth: the Golden Age". Henry VIII, the original british thug and his illegitimate and sinsiter daughter, Elizabeth, are going be presented to us again as models of humanity. I look forward to how both these productions will throw into relief the Civilisation of Love and the Culture of Life.
However, we will still have to cope with the contemporary phenomenon of how the media projects today's personality and psychology onto a past age. Historic and period productions used to present past personalities as different to us - which they were. Present day personality and psychology which is so weakly Christian and so strongly bewildered cannot really be the measure of human identity - nor can that of the Tudors.

Sunday 14 October 2007

Dating with Dignity

Yesterday we held a 'Friends with Christ' Day of Recollection for dating couples near Gainsborough (Lincs). It is a very rich experience when dating couples spend some time together in the company of a priest and a married couple. The focus of the day was Christ and we reflected together on two basic dynamics of a Christian relationship: how I can develop my life so that I am in a position to marry, and how I can begin to test the quality of my love for my partner. Thanks go to Alan and Anne for hosting the Day, and to Rob and Emily, Sam and Amy (not pictured) and Paul and Hermione. May your relationships bear much fruit for you, and for God and His Church.

Wednesday 10 October 2007

40th Anniversary on its way

As you know, 2008 is the 40th Anniversary of Paul VI's Encyclical "Humanae Vitae". I would like to celebrate this teaching in some way between now and the end of 2008, and I would be very happy to receive any ideas from you about how we could do this.

Sunday 7 October 2007

A fledgeling fraternity

On Friday and Saturday last week Fr Vincent Siret, the Vice-Moderator of the John Vianney Society, came to England to visit Fr Julian and myself. This was an important visit for both of us. We joined the Society in August of this year and Fr Vincent's visit was a real expression of its fraternity, confirming us as the first fledgeling extension of the Society in England.
Fr Vincent is a priest of the Diocese of Nimes, France, and lives at the Foyer Sacerdotale in Ars working for the Society and teaching Moral Theology in its seminary.
We met at the Catholic Chaplaincy to Birmingham University, and apart from the time we spent in prayer and in speaking together, we were joined by some of the students - perhaps the first people in the UK to experience this priestly fraternity. It was certainly a grace-filled experience for all of us.
Fr Vincent will be supporting us during the Retreat for Priests from the UK which we have organised. This is taking place in Ars this November with the title: The Priest - brother, father, spouse (these being the three relationships which the priest has with the Church.) More on this later.